Posted by: roger6t6 | February 12, 2016

Indian Point Contaminates the Hudson River With Uncontrollable Radioactive Flow

 

Indian Point - riverside 

By Roger Witherspoon

            For more than a decade, it has been impossible for operators of the Indian Point nuclear power plant to stop highly radioactive reactor and spent fuel pool coolant from leaking into the groundwater and migrating to the Hudson River.

And despite assurances from Entergy that this time will be different, there is no indication that the company has developed the ability to prevent the latest uncontrolled leaks from following the underground waterway into the Hudson. And because the river is a tidal estuary flowing as much as 20 miles above and below the nuclear site, radioactive contaminants may be sucked into the drinking water systems of several river towns.

While Entergy focuses attention on tritium, a radioactive form of water and the predominant contaminant leaking from the plant’s cooling system, the actual leak contains a basket of radioactive elements, including Strontium-90, Cesium-137, Cobalt-60, and Nickel-63 according to an assessment by the New York Department of State as part of its Coastal Zone Management Assessment. (  http://bit.ly/1Kf8iOY )

The Coastal Zone Assessment, released November, 2015, expressed concern about the periodic leaks into the Hudson River because it serves as a direct water source for Poughkeepsie, Wappingers Falls, Highland, Port Ewen, East Fishkill, Hyde Park, and the Village of Rhinebeck. It is also a backup water source for some 9 million residents of New York City and Westchester County.

“Tritium,” explained David Lochbaum, nuclear safety expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, “is just the first item reported. It tends to be the leading edge of any spill since it is the lightest and most mobile of the radioactive contaminants. The other isotopes slow down as they go through the soil. That other stuff is on its way, however. Tritium just wins the race.”Scan short map 3

Indeed, ongoing monitoring by the NY State Department of Health (  http://on.ny.gov/1WhlQu7 )  has found detectable deposits of a broad variety of radioactive isotopes above and below the Indian Point discharge site into the fast-moving Hudson River tidal estuary that the Native Americans referred to as “the river that runs both ways.”

Indian Point schematics provided by the NRC show the site of the leak or leaks is roughly 69 feet above the Hudson River at the beginning of a groundwater flow that widens to about 80 feet as it rushes downward, pools above the bedrock and then flows inexorably into the Hudson River. (  http://bit.ly/1QaQ7WT  )  Once the contaminants enter that groundwater flow there is no system at Indian Point to remove them. Entergy representatives declined to comment on planned and unplanned radioactive discharges into the environment.

 

The sequence of events leading to leaks of radioactive liquids from Indian Point 2 is the subject of an intense investigation by federal and state officials. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission dispatched a radiation specialist to Indian Point Thursday to work with the three, on-site, resident inspectors to determine how the leak occurred and whether or not it can be stopped. There are more than three miles of inaccessible piping under the 239-acre site, and the inability of Entergy to properly assess possible corrosion within the pipes has been a key part of the ongoing challenge to the plants’ licenses by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. And Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ordered the state Departments of Health, Environmental Conservation, and Public Service to coordinate investigations into maintenance issues at Indian Point.

In the past, the Coastal Zone Management report states, “radioactive releases have been detected at the Indian Point facility from cracks in two different spent fuel pools. Leaks of radioactive liquids from the Indian Point 2 spent fuel pools have reached the Hudson River and have been detected in the groundwater beneath the Indian Point facility.”

Entergy has sought to assure the public that there is no possible danger from the leaking liquids. In their initial announcement that high levels of tritium had been found in three monitoring wells near Indian Point 2, the company insisted that there was nothing to worry about.

“While elevated tritium in the ground onsite is not in accordance with our standards, there is no health or safety consequence to the public, and releases are more than a thousand times below federal permissible limits,” the company statement said.” The tritium did not affect any source of drinking water onsite or offsite.”

That blanket assertion of safety may not be true.

The leaks were first detected Friday in three monitoring wells (30, 31, and 32) between the spent fuel building, the reactor containment building, and the Reserve Water Storage Tank (RWST), a 350,000-gallon stainless steel structure that plays a critical role in the reactor’s operation. (http://bit.ly/1KJFA90 ).

The operating reactor core contains water with boron, which serves to moderate the fission reactions and help make them more controllable. Some of the water in that fission environment becomes radioactive tritium. In order to monitor fluctuations within the highly pressurized reactor, there is a steady stream of this coolant which is siphoned off for both analysis – to determine if there is an appropriate amount of boron in the mix – and to detect particles, which indicates cracks in some of the fuel rods.

“The movement of the fluid is not always a closed loop,” explained Lochbaum. “There are occasional balance issues. When the reactor changes power levels the water heats up and expands or cools and contracts. The system is used to supply water or take water out.”

Lochbaum said there is a wide array of pipes leading to the storage tank, “and both tanks and pipes have leaked in the past, which is why they have monitoring wells.”

The tank is also used to supply coolant during refueling outages.  The water in the tank fills the well holding the reactor, so the top can be removed under several feet of coolant and workers can safely access the fuel rods.

Initial reports from Entergy to the NRC and to Gov. Cuomo’s office were that the tritium readings were as high as 8 million picocuries per liter – far above the 20,000 picocuries per liter limit that the federal Environmental Protection Agency has set for drinking water.

A picocurie is a molecular level measurement that is just one trillionth of a Curie. But radiation and other contaminants in the environment are frequently measured in scales of one part per billion, because at that level there can be significant damage to a person’s cell structure or DNA.  The NRC and Entergy consider the periodic spills to be safe because the Hudson River is not considered drinking water and, therefore, EPA safe limits do not apply. The fact that several river towns do use the Hudson as a primary water source is discounted because the radioactive flow is diluted by the rest of the water in the River.

But that ignores the fact that radioactive particles do not dissolve or lose their potency even if they are harder to encounter.  The State Coastal Management review, to some degree, shares that view.

The possibility that people will come into contact with the radioactive material, even in small  quantities, prompted Paul Gallay, director of the environmental group Riverkeeper,  to call for closing the plants pending an investigation of the latest accident.

“The NRC says there is no safe level of tritium contamination,” said Gallay. “When tritium is released in concentrations as high as 400 times the standard for drinking water, it is not out of the realm of possibility that people recreating in the Hudson River will come into contact with that material, or consume fish that ingested some of this material. There is certainly a risk to the environment.”

Entergy has a State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permit which entitles Indian Point to regularly pour radioactive contaminants into the groundwater, the Hudson River, and the air. In 2013 Indian Point released 1,300 Curies of radioactive material into the Hudson and the Buchanan air. That is trillions of times more radioactive material, released legally, than is being released accidentally now. DEC officials would not immediately release discharge figures for 2014 and 2015, or discuss possible impacts on the municipal water systems utilizing the Hudson River.

Susan Shapiro of the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition, a civic group seeking to close the plants, said the NRC should penalize Entergy for exceeding its operating license and state discharge permit with the accidental releases of additional radioactive material into the groundwater.

“If you have a mom and pop gas station and they have an underground leak,” Shapiro said, “they would be immediately shut down until the leak is plugged.  In New York State, all groundwater has to be potable and contamination is not permitted.

“But Entergy is getting away with contaminating our groundwater just because they are under the auspices of a government agency that doesn’t feel as strongly about our water.  For me, that is shocking.”

 

 


Responses

  1. […] Indian Point Contaminates the Hudson River With Uncontrollable Radioactive Flow […]

  2. […] Hall of Shame. Here’s your Enviro Show Blog Bonus: Do it for the critters, OK? Also this: Indian Point nuke leaks into the Hudson River worse than we […]

  3. Reblogged this on Radiation Free Lakeland.

  4. Nice write-up and links. But footnote 187 in the Coastal Zone Assessment shows that Strontium-90, Cesium-137, etc. were mentioned in a License Renewal Application from April 2007. Do you know where to get the current monitoring well readings?

    • The NRC has the discharge readings for 2014 available in its database. You can get the accession number from the Region 1 office.

      • David this is the last time I will air your critique or argue with you. I think your criticism is garbage. Reactor coolant is highly radioactive. Period. There is nothing alarmist in this story. What I have done is put everything into perspective. The initial announcement from Gov Cuomo that 8 million picocuries per liter of contaminant leaked into the ground had no context. The assertion by Entergy that there was no danger to the public and no contamination of the Hudson was a lie. The contaminants are flowing into the Hudson — and have been for years. As for the 8 million pcl, that needed context. It is small compared to the legal discharges made every day which the government considers “safe.”
        As for the rest, I don’t have to defend a damn thing to you. Go write your own story if you think you can do it better without becoming an apologist or flack for the industry.

      • Got the 2014 data here, thanks …

        http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1512/ML15124A715.pdf

        It would be nice if we could see all the data Cuomo’s citing …

  5. Reblogged this on flying cuttlefish picayune and commented:
    Non-stop contamination 24/7 . . .

  6. Frank Mancuso· Federal Clean Water Act Lawsuit, Author, The Evolution of Pollution
    The most important issue facing mankind isn’t global warming it is air and water.
    This June it was discovered that phytoplankton is ingesting marine micro plastic. As marine plastic decomposes it absorbs PCB’s spelling the demise of phytoplankton. Phytoplankton has declined by 40% and was supplying over half the worlds oxygen, but since the decline both ocean oxygen and atmospheric oxygen levels are dropping. 2 or 3 percentage points will end all life on the planet. It is irreversible and happening rapidly as evidenced by the oceans vomiting up in world wide beachings of toxic suffocating ocean life forms. Every estuary, river, and stream is now inundated with storm drains which drain toxins, plastic, medical waste, oil, into our oceans quite legally. This practice must be stopped TODAY, BUT government bought and paid for by CEO’s block all attempts to correct this, the most serious issue facing mankind today.My twenty year Federal Clean Water Act lawsuit is proof. NYS and the Federal Government fought tooth and nail to the to allow this to continue. They have zero interest in clean water.

  7. Roger,
    Too bad we never got to discuss your views on the actual biological danger of ionizing radiation, and why you think the results from the Life Span Study of the atomic bomb survivors – findings taken as fact by all the most respected radiation biologists AND regulatory bodies in the world, and even the UCS – isn’t true. Also too bad we didn’t get to discuss why you think that whatever strident anti-nuclear activist (from the Helen Caldicott organization) Kevin Knapp says should be taken as true, which several journalists in the symposium and I found incredible, for someone who self identifies as a journalist. Too bad, because it might help explain the inaccurate and alarmist language in your piece about the actual danger from radiation from the leaks. Alarmist language like yours, that so flies in the face of the evidence, makes me suspicious about how honest the story is about the leaks themselves. If you are playing up the fear, what else? Happy to discuss if you would like.

    • David. Your criticism is without foundation.
      1. This is not a commentary. Everything in my story comes from NRC documents. Follow the links. That includes the map, which was prepared by Entergy for the NRC.
      2. I never said trust Kamp in all things. I said he never sent me anything he could not back up with documents. As for Helen Caldicott, I did not mention her. but for the record, I have nothing to do with her, ever. I don’t write about her or take information from her.
      3. I defy you to show anything inaccurate or alarmist in my story. The NRC– which provided the data — said the story was accurate. So if you have a beef, take it up with them.

      • The following critique is about the journalism of your piece, not about your motives.

        A detailed review reveals a serious failure to meet basic journalistic standards. You leave the reader alarmed, but ill-informed.

        The lead says that “highly radioactive reactor and spent fuel coolant” is being released. “Highly radioactive” is alarming but imprecise to the point of being inaccurate. As you know, the level of radioactivity depends on the nature of the decay energy (particles, waves, etc.), as well as the rate of decay. (e.g. plutonium is HIGHLY radioactive only when it’s actively decaying, but most of the time it’s not decaying or active at all – which is why it has that scary long half life…it’s mostly dormant along the way to stability. And it’s highly radioactive to you and me as a risky substance if we breath it in or ingest it, but not very radioactive at all – in terms of what it means to human health – if we are only exposed dermally (it’s an alpha emitter). The sweeping use of the adjective ‘highly’ is dramatic but factually misleading. It wouldn’t take much space to describe the same facts in a more balanced way. You could have said “Radioactive isotopes from the reactor and spent fuel pool, some that are more harmful than others, are leaking into the river.”

        Your story notes, as well it should, that “radioactive contaminants may be sucked in the drinking water systems of several river towns”, and makes other worrisome references to possible contamination of drinking water supplies. While this is certainly not only accurate but appropriate and important for the reader to know, it directly suggests a risk to public health, complete with scary sounding isotope names. But your story then almost entirely fails to discuss any basic details about the risk, most critically about the infinitesimal likelihood of any danger. Your reader is left alarmed, but badly ill-informed about the actual threat these leaks may pose.

        You report that Entergy says there is no risk, but then challenge that with “that blanket assertion of safety may not be true’. Yet you include NOTHING about the minimal actual risk (to communities as a whole or even to any individual drinker), based on what nearly all radiation biologists know about the low risk of even HIGH doses of various types of ionizing radiation. You are aware of these qualifying facts, and even though you personally may dispute them, the reader is entitled to them. That is perhaps this sotry’s most glaring failure.

        You write “But radiation and other contaminants in the environment are frequently measured in scales of one part per billion, because at that level there can be significant damage to a person’s cell structure or DNA.” 
        That ionizing radiation can – DOES – cause mutations, including to DNA, is certainly true. But it is a partial truth, and again leaves the reader alarmed by ill-informed. You know this is FAR from the full story about what ANY mutagen does and whether it poses a threat to the organism, and how much of a threat, and in what ways. This incomplete factual statement overdramatizes the actual risk posed by these leaks and disserves the reader.
        You write that “The fact that several river towns do use the Hudson as a primary water source is discounted because the radioactive flow is diluted by the rest of the water in the River. But that ignores the fact that radioactive particles do not dissolve or lose their potency even if they are harder to encounter.”
        It is hard not to see this as a purposefully alarmist evasion of what you – a member of the board of the Society of Environmental Journalists – certainly knows, that dilution does reduce the chance that that there might be a dangerous particle or substance in any given exposure to a quantity of this water. Dilution doesn’t eliminate risk, but it absolutely does reduce it. Disputing that does worse than leave the reader ill-informed. It misleads.

        And there is your alarmist word choice, which is hardly something you can excuse by citing the NRC as your source. “Entergy has a State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permit which entitles Indian Point to regularly pour radioactive contaminants into the groundwater, the Hudson River, and the air. In 2013 Indian Point released 1,300 Curies of radioactive material into the Hudson and the Buchanan air. That is trillions of times more radioactive material, released legally, than is being released accidentally now.”

        The verb “POUR” is hardly neutral. “trillions of times more radioactive material than released now” sounds really scary, but you offer no context, NONE, on what this might mean for actual risk of health damage. What is the nature of those particles. How harmful are they? Without any qualification, you offer only big scary numbers.

        You defend your piece by saying that it’s all based on cited sources. You defend your defense of strident anti-nuclear advocate Kevin Knapp because he cites sources. But any experienced journalist knows that advocates cite sources all the time, selectively, to make their case. Neither you nor I nor any fair journalist would think that tobacco or chemical companies are credible just because they cite sources. You told the journalists at the Missouri seminar that among all the people they heard from you take Knapp as credible because he cites sources. This fails basic journalism standards of due skepticism, especially with overt and strident activists like Knapp, and you know it. And so did the several attending journalists I talked to briefly afterwards who wondered about you skeptically because of the credence you gave Knapp, just because he offered citations.

        Reviewing this as risk reporting, it is inadequate to invoke the Knapp defense – everything I said is from a cited source – for this essay. First of all, your claim is not true. Your piece is laced with facts and word choice that has no such support. And it even if the claim were true, the piece still doesn’t meet basic journalism requirement to be honest to the basic body of evidence as best the journalist can make it out. Your selective use of facts that consistently paint an alarmist picture, and failure to include any citations that would help the reader put the risk in perspective, on top of dramatic semantics that distort and magnify how scary these leaks feel, profoundly fails to provide the reader with the context they need to put this risk in perspective.

  8. […] https://spoonsenergymatters.wordpress.com/2016/02/12/indian-point-contaminates-the-hudson-river-with… […]

  9. […] –on the Hudson River, Indian Point nuke plant is leaking radioactive water, but corporate media isn’t interested; an excellent blog report is here […]

  10. […] Journalist Roger Witherspoon, Feb 12, 2016: Initial reports from Entergy to the NRC and to Gov. Cuomo’s office were that the tritium readings were as high as 8 million picocuries per liter… The fact that several river towns do use the Hudson as a primary water source is discounted because the radioactive flow is diluted by the rest of the water in the River. But that ignores the fact that radioactive particles do not dissolve or lose their potency even if they are harder to encounter… Entergy has a… permit which entitles Indian Point to regularly pour radioactive contaminants into the groundwater, the Hudson River, and the air. In 2013 Indian Point released 1,300 Curies of radioactive material into the Hudson and the Buchanan air. That is trillions of times more radioactive material, released legally, than is being released accidentally now. […]

  11. […] Journalist Roger Witherspoon, Feb 12, 2016: Initial reports from Entergy to the NRC and to Gov. Cuomo’s office were that the tritium readings were as high as 8 million picocuries per liter… The fact that several river towns do use the Hudson as a primary water source is discounted because the radioactive flow is diluted by the rest of the water in the River. But that ignores the fact that radioactive particles do not dissolve or lose their potency even if they are harder to encounter… Entergy has a… permit which entitles Indian Point to regularly pour radioactive contaminants into the groundwater, the Hudson River, and the air. In 2013 Indian Point released 1,300 Curies of radioactive material into the Hudson and the Buchanan air. That is trillions of times more radioactive material, released legally, than is being released accidentally now. […]

  12. […] radioactive liquids from the Indian Point 2 spent fuel pools have reached the Hudson River”… Indian Point Contaminates the Hudson River With Uncontrollable Radioactive Flow Journalist Roger Witherspoon, Feb 12, 2016: Initial reports from Entergy to the NRC and to Gov. […]

  13. […] radioactive liquids from the Indian Point 2 spent fuel pools have reached the Hudson River”… Indian Point Contaminates the Hudson River With Uncontrollable Radioactive Flow Journalist Roger Witherspoon, Feb 12, 2016: Initial reports from Entergy to the NRC and to Gov. […]

  14. […] 4.   Indian Point Contaminates the Hudson River With Uncontrollable Radioactive Flow, Energy Matters (Feb 17, 2016).  https://spoonsenergymatters.wordpress.com/2016/02/12/indian-point-contaminates-the-hudson-river-with… […]


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